Preview: Top 14, Round Six

Date published: October 23 2015

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As France come to terms with their World Cup exit there are a couple of big games in the Top 14 to focus French eyes.

After Friday night's Parisian derby top two Montpellier and Clermont face off on Saturday evening as les Jaunards try to maintain their unbeaten start to the season.

Earlier in the day Toulouse travel to Bordeaux-Bègles, having won both fixtures between the two last season by a single point, while Castres host Grenoble.

European champions Toulon host Oyonnax and Pau welcome Brive, before Sunday's clash between bottom two La Rochelle and Agen.

Fixtures
Friday

Racing 92 v Stade Français
Saturday
Castres v Grenoble
Pau v Brive
Toulon v Oyonnax
Bordeaux-Bègles v Toulouse
Montpellier v Clermont
Sunday
La Rochelle v Agen


Castres v Grenoble
Stade Pierre Antoine, Castres

Grenoble suffered their first home defeat of the season last time out against Montpellier, and now need a victory at Castres to get back on track.

Christophe Urios' side have started the season well at home though, with successes over Toulon and Oyonnax.

They were comfortably beaten at Stade Français last week, but are slowly recovering their World Cup players, with Rory Kockott returning this week.

Grenoble had very few absentees during the tournament, and will have been aiming for better than ten points from their first five games.

After three successive seasons where they have started strongly before fading in the second half of the season, this year they are a little off the pace.

A win at Pierre Antoine would get them very much back in play-off contention, but having shipped 50 to a struggling Castres side a year ago, it's a tall order. 

Castres: 15 Geoffrey Palis, 14 David Smith, 13 Romain Cabannes, 12 Rémi Lamerat, 11 Rémy Grosso, 10 Daniel Kirkpatrick, 9 Rory Kockott, 8 Alex Tulou, 7 Alexandre Bias, 6 Ibrahim Diarra, 5 Rodrigo Capo Ortega, 4 Christophe Samson, 3 Yohan Montès, 2 Brice Mach, 1 Mihaita Lazar
Replacements: 16 Marc Antoine Rallier, 17 Lucas Martinez, 18 Richie Gray, 19 Yannick Caballero, 20 Antoine Dupont, 21 Julien Dumora, 22 Rudi Wulf, 23 Florian Houerie

Grenoble: 15 Fabien Gengenbacher, 14 Gio Aplon, 13 Chris Farrell, 12 Fabrice Estebanez, 11 Xavier Mignot, 10 Jonathan Wisniewski, 9 Charl McLeod, 8 Rory Grice, 7 Mahamadou Diaby, 6 Peter Kimlin, 5 Hendrik Roodt, 4 James Percival, 3 Dayna Edwards, 2 Arnaud Héguy, 1 Alexandre Dardet
Replacements: 16 Kevin Goze, 17 Laurent Bouchet, 18 Sona Taumalolo, 19 Jonathan Best, 20 Dylan Hayes, 21 Stephen Setephano, 22 James Hart, 23 Daniel Kilioni

Last year's result: Castres won 51-10
Kick-off: 14:00 local (12:00 GMT)
Referee: Laurent Cardona


Pau v Brive
Stade du Hameau, Pau

After five weeks of the season Brive lie fifth in the league, with wins already against both Stade Français and Toulon. 

Last time out they downed the European champions thanks to great kicking from Gaëtan Germain, as well as an impressive performance from scrum-half Teddy Iribaren.

Pau, by contrast, were well-beaten at Clermont, and remain a very different side on the road, compared to at home.

Luckily for them, this weekend's clash is at the Stade du Hameau, and they will be eager to make it three wins from three in the Béarn.

Still awaiting All Black duo Colin Slade and Conrad Smith, who are a fortnight away, Pau still have some old heads to help them out, including veterans like Damien Traille and Euan Murray.

Their victories at home this season have come from punishing opposition indiscipline at home, but against the top performing scrum in the Top 14, they will probably need more than that this weekend.

Pau: 15 Damien Traille, 14 Marika Vunibaka, 13 Julien Fumat, 12 Jale Vatubua, 11 Mosese Ratuvou, 10 Santiago Fernández, 9 Samuel Marques, 8 James Coughlan, 7 Paddy Butler, 6 Sean Dougall, 5 Daniel Ramsay, 4 Julien Pierre, 3 Euan Murray, 2 VIncent Campo, 1 Julien Jacquot
Replacements: 16 Mehdi Boundjema, 17 Jeremy Hurou, 18 Josefa Domolailai, 19 Brice Monzeglio, 20 Thierry Lacrampe, 21 Brandon Fajardo, 22 Charly Malié, 23 Sylvain Charlet.

Brive: 15 Gaetan Germain, 14 Alfie Mafi, 13 Benjamin Petre, 12 Chris Tuatara, 11 Guillaume Namy, 10 Mathieu Ugalde, 9 Teddy Iribaren, 8 Sisi Koyamaibole, 7 Poutasi Luafutu, 6 Petrus Hauman, 5 Peet Marais, 4 Johan Snyman, 3 Damien Jourdain, 2 Guillaume Ribes, 1 Lucas Pointud
Replacements: 16 Francois Da Ros, 17 Karlen Asieshvili, 18 Arnaud Mela, 19 Dominiko Waqaniburotu, 20 Fabien Sanconnie, 21 Nicolas Bézy, 22 Thomas Laranjeira, 23 Kevin Buys

Previous result: Pau won 12-9 in Pro D2 in 2013
Kick-off: 14:00 local (12:00 GMT)
Referee: Tual Trainini


Toulon v Oyonnax
Stade Félix Mayol, Toulon

The World Cup has hit Toulon hard, and Mourad Boudjellal wasn't slow to complain about it when his team lost a third game in five last weekend against Brive.

Beyond all the absentees, Toulon have also lost Paul O'Connell and Frédéric Michalak to long-term injuries, while the likes Ma'a Nonu and Duane Vermeulen are still away.

Still, their record at home against Oyonnax has been outstanding in recent years, and with Oyo struggling early on this season, Toulon will expect to get back to winning ways.

Currently sixth, they are still very much on course for the play-offs, but another loss would give one of Clermont or Montpellier the chance to pull away.

The problem has been in defence, with only the bottom four and Bordeaux-Bègles having conceded more points so far. 

Oyonnax, despite just one win in five, have done well in attack, but will slip into the bottom two with a loss.

After the best season in the club's history last year, they look set for a relegation battle this season.

Toulon: 15 Delon Armitage, 14 Josua Tuisova, 13 Mathieu Bastareaud, 12 Maxime Mermoz, 11 Lachie Turner, 10 Willie du Plessis, 9 Jonathan Pélissié, 8 Steffon Armitage, 7 Virgile Bruni,  6 Juan Smith, 5 Romain Taofifenua, 4 Jocelino Suta, 3 Matt Stevens, 2 Anthony Etrillard, 1 Xavier Chiocci
Replacements: 16 Guihelm Guirado, 17 Florian Fresia, 18 Thibault Lassalle, 19 Charles Ollivon, 20 Sireli Bobo, 21 UJ Seuteni, 22 Sébastian Tillous-Borde, 23 Mohamed Boughanmi

Oyonnax: 15 Quentin Etienne, 14 Silvere Tian, 13 Guillaume Bousses, 12 Kane Hansell-Pune, 11 Uwa Tawalo, 10 Nicky Robinson, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Viliame Ma'afu, 7 Maurie Fa'asavalu,  6 Pierrick Gunther, 5 Valentin Ursache, 4 LeonPower, 3 Horatiu Pungea, 2 Jérémie Mourouard, 1 Soane Tonga'uiha. 
Replacements: 16 Thomas Bordes, 17 Stan Wright, 18 George Robson, 19 Pedrie Wannenburg, 20 Fabien Cibray, 21 Regis Lespinas, 22 Emaonn Sheridan, 23 Marc Clerc

Last year's result: Toulon won 46-17
Kick-off: 14:00 local (12:00 GMT)
Referee: Thomas Charabas


Bordeaux-Bègles v Toulouse
Stade Chaban Delmas, Bordeaux

When Bordeaux-Bègles look back at last season's failure to make the play-offs, their two defeats to Toulouse will stand out.

Twice beaten by a single point, they had eminently kickable shots at goal to win each game, with Pierre Bernard and Lionel Beauxis the guilty parties.

Neither is fit at the moment, with a new half-back pairing of Baptiste Serin and Romain Lonca coming to the fore. The former, a French U20s scrum-half, looks a natural leader, and is also an accomplished kicker, despite some struggles at home to Montpellier earlier this season.

They made up for that home loss with a win at Agen last time out, and despite a scratchy start, are in reasonable position after five games.

They take on a Toulouse side who have lost just once this season, but are still struggling to produce 80-minute performances. Last time out against La Rochelle they looked to be in complete control, before a ten-minute loss of concentration turned the game on its head and cost them a bonus point.

Ugo Mola spoke during the week about discipline, and that will be key against an improving Bordeaux. With the French international contingent likely to return next week, this could be the last chance for a number of youngsters to stake a claim for a place going forward.

Bordeaux-Bègles: 15 Jean-Marcellin Buttin, 14 Sofiane Guitoune, 13 Félix le Bourhis, 12 Julien Rey, 11 Blair Connor, 10 Romain Lonca, 9 Baptiste Serin, 8 Loann Goujon, 7 Hugh Chalmers, 6 Peter Saili, 5 Berend Botha, 4 Jandre Marais, 3 Francisco Gomez Kodela, 2 Beñat Auzqui, 1 Sébastien Taofifenua
Replacements: 16 Clément Maynadier, 17 Jean-Baptiste Poux, 18 Julien Ledevedec, 19 Marco Tauleigne, 20 Luke Braid, 21 Yann Lesgourgues, 22 Manu Ahotaeiloa, 23 Albert Toetu

Toulouse: 15 Maxime Médard, 14 Vincent Clerc, 13 Yann David, 12 Florian Fritz, 11 Timoci Matanavou, 10 Luke McAlister, 9 Jean-Marc Doussain, 8 Gillian Galan, 7 Tala Gray, 6 Yacouba Camara, 5 Edwin Maka, 4 Romain Millo-Chluski, 3 Census Johnston, 2 Corey Flynn, 1 Gurthro Steenkamp
Replacements: 16 Christopher Tolofua, 17 Vasil Kakovin, 18 Dorian Aldegheri, 19 Grégory Lamboley, 20 Imanol Harinordoquy, 21 Sébastien Bézy, 22 Clément Poitrenaud, 23 Arthur Bonneval

Last year's result: Toulouse won 21-20
Kick-off: 14:30 local (12:30 GMT)
Referee: Alexandre Ruiz


Montpellier v Clermont
Altrad Stadium, Montpellier

The pick of the games this weekend sees top two Montpellier and Clermont face off at the Altrad Stadium.

While Clermont's success has been well-documented – they are the only remaining unbeaten team – Montpellier's good start has flown under the radar somewhat.

Wins at Bordeaux and Grenoble have fired them up into second, and Jake White's team look to be gelling well despite the absence of some of their higher profile signings.

They suffered a big blow this week though with the loss of François Trinh-Duc to injury, but in Demetri Catrakilis, they have a more than capable replacement, something they lacked last year when Trinh-Duc broke his leg.

It is that depth which really marks them out, and they will go into this game as favourites.

Clermont have been better than anyone else at integrating their young players into their first team and already have a four-point lead at the top of the table.

The likes of David Strettle and Camille Gerondeau have slotted straight into the team, and with their French internationals eager to make up for a miserable World Cup, Clermont should only improve from here. A win at Montpellier and they are red-hot favourites to finish the regular season top.

Montpellier: 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Benjamin Fall, 13 Timoci Nagusa, 12 Andrew Smith, 11 Marvin O'Connor, 10 Demetri Catrakilis, 9 Benoit Paillaugue, 8 Akapusi Qera, 7 Ben Mowen, 6 Wiaan Liebenberg, 5 Paul Willemse, 4 Robins Tchale-Watchou, 3 Pat Cilliers, 2 Mickaël Ivaldi, 1 Mikheil Nariashvili
Replacements: 16 Craig Burden, 17 Schalk van der Merwe, 18 Antoine Battut, 19 Kélian Galletier, 20 Nic White, 21 Ben Lucas, 22 Robert Ebersohn, 23 Nicolas Mas

Clermont: 15 Nick Abendanon, 14 Alivereti Raka, 13 Aurélien Rougerie, 12 Albert Vulivuli, 11 Hosea Gear, 10 Camille Lopez, 9 Jean-Baptiste Bruzulier, 8 Camille Gérondeau, 7 Alexandre Lapandry, 6 Viktor Kolelishvili, 5 Flip van der Merwe, 4 Paul Jedrasiak, 3 Daniel Kotze, 2 Martinus van der Westhuizen, 1 Thomas Domingo
Replacements: 16 Iuri Natriashvili, 17 Raphaël Chaume, 18 Sébastien Vahaamahina, 19 Fritz Lee, 20 Ludovic Radosavljevic, 21 Brock James, 22 David Strettle, 23 Clément Ric

Last year's result: Clermont won 29-17
Kick-off: 20:45 local (18:45 GMT)
Referee: Cyril Lafon


La Rochelle v Agen (Sunday)
Stade Marcel Deflandre, La Rochelle

Sunday's Top 14 game is already huge in terms of the relegation battle, with La Rochelle and Agen currently propping up the table.

The runners-up of the last two Pro D2 seasons currently sit 13th and 14th, but it's Agen who are in bigger trouble with two losses at home already under their belts.

La Rochelle were outstanding at home last season, and despite their big loss to Clermont to start the season, will expect another win this weekend.

Agen have been better than their record suggests so far this season, but silly mistakes have really hurt them, and there's a feeling they aren't quite ready for this level.

Another loss this weekend and they could find themselves cut adrift at the bottom.

La Rochelle: tbc

Agen: tbc

Previous result: Agen won 33-18 in Pro D2 in 2014
Kick-off: 12:30 local (11:30 GMT)
Referee: Adrien Descottes

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